Al the Angle, poised, (as always, naturellement), high stylin’ but low ballin’, to strike, spiels his riff,
“Up, down, turn-around, edgeways or sidelined; every fucker has an angle to get the juices flowing until they flood. Do you feel me…?
“Yes? … I thought so. Very, very” (very is slowed to a hypnotic dragged down drawl, then a lull, an insinuating pause… …), “very good baby.
‘You know if you handle the cards that I deal right I might just let you, only might, mind you, I haven’t quite yet decided, come for me. Soooooo tell me my love, is it now time for that cunt to get eaten? I want to watch in the mirror every motion, absolution and devotion.”
SHOWTIME…the ever eager, devouring mouths merge momentarily before separating again, revolving and hovering in the absolute stillness until the lips shape the same word…SHOWTIME.
The Ingenue blinks on the stage trying to remember her lines. The audience can barely contain their restlessness. The words fail to form in the Ingenue’s mind and even worse she can’t for the life of her recall the part she is meant to play. Earlier in the dressing room mirror she had stared long and hard at her reflection before saying, “I know who I am, but who the fuck are you?”
The Melancholy Lieutenant, after travelling through a multidimensional shit-storm and worn down by horror zonal conflicts finds he is infra dig, even in Interzone, resorts to disembodiment; becomes the ghost in the machine, the flickering shadow at the intersection of alleys, the image fleetingly glimpsed in the corner of mirrors.
All mirrors are inherently mysterious and magical. The moment when Narcissus looked into the lake and realized that what he saw reflected was at one and the same time the self and an image was the moment of a great divide, a second Fall, but as certain Gnostic sects argued about the temptation of Eve and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden this recognition was a necessary loss of Innocence. It was the first experience of a mediated reality. All was needed was the technical expertise to manufacture mirrors to disseminate this heightened self-awareness to every individual. And from mirrors it was only a matter of time before the camera and then film which led to the media landscape that envelops and dominates our perception today.
Mirrors are mentioned frequently in myth, folk-lore and religion; not to mention in art and literature. In Corinthians Paul says of our knowledge of the divine ‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known’. In Vodou, the syncretic religion practised widely in Haiti that combines elements of West African spirit religion, Catholicism and arguably Mesoamerican traditions, the altars of hounfours (temples) are decorated with mirrors as they are conduits that the houngan use to contact the spirit world. Many cultures at many times held the tradition of covering all mirrors in the house when in mourning, this custom persists today in Judaism. In connection with a heresy held by one of the numerous Gnostic sects Borges states ‘Mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men.’
In libertine fiction mirrors play a large part as they increase the pleasure of the moment and enables the libertine to view the erotic scene which they are actively participating in. In the sparkling sophisticated jewel of a tale Point de lendemain (No Tomorrow) byVivant Denonthe artful heroine describes to her paramour the delights of her chamber with its reflective glass covering every wall, when he enters he is enchanted to find a ‘a vast cage of mirrors’ and then states that, ‘Desires are reproduced through their image’.
One of the most memorable mentions in fairy-tales of the deceptive nature of the looking-glass is the Magic Mirror of the Evil Queen in Snow White, which is a good illustration of William Blake’s quote ‘A truth told with evil intent beats any lie you could invent.’
However for me the supreme moment for the mirror in literature is when Alice steps through to the other side of the looking glass. Ever since the phrase has been used to describe many different and varying experiences; the transfigured absolute reality glimpsed in insanity; the shifting contours of the nightly dreamscape, the heavens and hells of drug use (the John Tenniel illustration was reproduced on LSD blotters in the sixties) the transcendence achieved in sexual ecstasy, and ultimately death, that unknowing inevitable frontier where we hope that the outward appearance will vanish to be replaced for all eternity by our fundamental essence. For although mirrors are just surface and can deceive, distort and warp, they also always reveal something other than just ourselves.
A delicate and evocative image from Toyen’s later career, this time using the drypoint technique on pale green paper.
In the elaborate mirror with leaf motifs we see the reflection of an ethereal beauty from a bygone age, with her eyes closed, suggestive of sleeping and dreaming. In the background to the immediate left is the silhouette of a man that effects a visual rhyme with the girl’s face. Is she dreaming of the man, or is the shadow another aspect of her personality, her animus? As always with Toyen the more you look, the greater the sense of mystery is affected.
Ingmar Bergmann’s stark modernist masterpiece of dissolving, merging female identities and the nature of cinema must surely influenced Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (Dreams of Desire 6). Both movies explore the porous boundaries of personality, the projection of desires onto another (and the subsequent hatred when the other remains separate and distinct) and the illusions that we create to maintain our precarious, fabricated self-image.
David Lynch plays tricks with time, memory and identity in the utterly mystifying yet completely bewitching Mulholland Dr. One of the few film-makers who can genuinely be classified as a Surrealist, Mulholland Dr. heady blend of atmospheric neo-noir, twisted Hollywood fable, mind melting strangeness and one of the most convincing dream narratives since a certain Alice fell down a rabbit hole defies categorization or rational comprehension, but therein lies its beauty. Continue reading →